Tuesday was sale day at Lewis Livestock Auction, and U.S. Senator John Boozman, R-Ark., was in town to gather information about the drought and its effects on livestock producers.
Conway was the second stop on his annual summer agriculture tour that began early morning at a fish farm in Keo.
It was hot and humid at the livestock barn, though owner Wayne Lasley said he was keeping the cattle cooler with an extensive sprinkling system of misters throughout the barns.
"If we don’t cool them down, they will go down," Lasley said.
Because of the extended drought, excessive heat, lack of grass, lack of hay, ranchers are selling off their herds.
"It’s serious," Boozman said.
"Livestock producers are facing unprecedented troubles with water problems, not having feed, and we’re seeing our herds liquidated which is a huge problem, because it will take probably five years for them to build back.
"We’re trying to see how to be helpful in that regard, visiting with lots of people, getting information to work with the Governor, Sen. Mark Pryor and the rest of the delegation to see if we can be helpful as we can."
Boozman, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said: "My goal is to highlight the agriculture community of Arkansas and hear the concerns of farmers and agriculture producers to see how the federal government can be helpful to the industry."
While Boozman and members of his staff, including his agriculture liaison Maj. Gen. Ron Chastain (Ret.) of Conway, former adjutant general, were having lunch at the sale barn, one man from Texas was waiting for the cattle sale to begin.
Lynn Bint of Abilene flew into Little Rock early Tuesday morning and was picked up at the airport by Lasley’s staff.
He was expecting to pick out 40-50 momma cows, mostly Angus, to buy, make a call for the truck to pick them up and take them out to West Texas.
"They’ll be pretty thin now," he predicted, "but we’ll fatten them up in the Big Country."
Drought was the problem in Texas last year, and he sold off his cattle.
"Now we’re buying. I know it’s sad to see the mommas go," Bint said. "They don’t come back."
Cattle prices are high and are expected to go higher.
"We’ll be buying at cheaper than the high, but high," Bint said.
Since the drought began, Lasley said some weeks he’s seen 400 more cattle sold than usual. Last week’s sale included 819 head compared to 679 a year ago.
He says he can’t hope that conditions will improve.
"Last year, producers were baling hay in October and November, and we were shipping hay to Texas," Lasley said.
"This year there will be no more hay."
(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 505-1234.)